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The Twelve Tips of Christmas for the Single Parent

They say 'honesty is the best policy' and of course yes it absolutely is, but I guarantee that most, if not all, single parents have at some time not been entirely honest about their true feelings over the Christmas period!

This can be for many reasons.  Perhaps we don’t want to let our guard down for fear of letting our children down, or we don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable around us if we show how we are really feeling.  We want to look strong and able to cope.

I remember the first Nativity/Carol service I went to as a single parent. I remember feeling choked up as I sat on my own and it seemed everybody around me had friends or family with them. I felt alone and isolated, and I didn’t want to be there, but of course you stay for your child.  These can be the realities of living as a single parent… but how do we turn these into positive experiences and make great new memories of Christmas together?

Counting the blessings

Of course, we are thankful for our children all the time, but especially this time of the year. I remind myself of other situations where people may not have children, or children may be in care. There are some families who have lost their child.  Some single parents have to share Christmas with the other parent and may not be able to spend Christmas with their children.

Getting ready for the festivities

I used to get excited about going into the cheap shops and finding new decorations for Christmas that were not going to break the bank, and choosing an advent calendar that I thought the children would like. The excitement of getting into the preparation of making Christmas as special as I could would uplift me and make it special for my children.

Christmas sparkles

Setting a time and day together to put up the decorations is exciting. Lots of patience may be required as you watch your children put the decorations up!  You can always sit on your hands!  Using the craft they have made in school is important, not only for your children to take pride in, but you can then keep it as a special memory. Making craft together would be very special.  My middle son is nearly thirty and I still have his homemade cardboard stocking with cotton wool hanging on the tree every year.

Don’t feel guilty

Let’s face it, lots of people struggle at this time of the year from all walks of life. Lots of us don’t have the money we would like to spend and it’s not worth getting into debt.  I tell myself it’s just ONE day. The media and advertising have become so commercial.  I suppose I had good grounding when I became a single parent, as my mum was widowed at a young age. I was nearly a teenager and my brother was 3 years old. It was more important that we were celebrating Christmas together and I didn’t expect expensive presents. For my family, the most important factor was getting back to basics of what Christmas is all about.

Being realistic

You don’t have to have the most expensive food to enjoy yourself. In the past I’ve gone Christmas dinner shopping with very little and we still enjoyed our meal.  Today, there are many cuts of value chicken or turkey and vegetables to have as your Christmas dinner.  We are blessed to have supermarkets that sell cheap versions of most food and drink so we don’t have to go without.  Over the years, close friends have given me a food parcel as a Christmas present and with these extras they helped top up my Christmas cupboard.

Meeting expectations

I don’t agree with the commercial side of Christmas, as I feel it puts pressure on parents, family and friends when giving gifts. Having a specified budget is important, along with research to look for the best price possible, perhaps on the internet. I have always been fortunate, my three children never expected the best of everything and when they did get that extra special present they were always very grateful and surprised.  I don’t want to give too many secrets away but quite often they were bought second hand and paid in instalments.  One particular year I really didn’t have any money, but I wanted my son to have things to open, so off I went with my £10 to a pound shop and he had lots of things to open.

Looking after yourself!

You ARE important so try and treat yourself. I always say if I don’t, who will? It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something for you.

Learn to receive

If friends and family want to help you this Christmas then let them. When we give others chance to help we are also blessing them as well.  It is so true that it is better to give than receive and that’s one of the things Christmas should be about.

Start early

This is the time when discounts and sales are already in action. If you have older children, giving them money for the things they would like can save so much if they then purchase the present after Christmas. It’s amazing how much cheaper products can be in the sales.

Take a break

Try not to stress about the busyness of Christmas. Enjoy the build up to it, especially while the children are still in school. Treat yourself to a Christmas latte or (my favourite!) a white hot chocolate and catch up with a friend while you can.

See it from a child’s perspective

The joy and pleasure of the nativity or carol service brings things into perspective. Even if you’re not a regular churchgoer, why not find out when your local church is hosting a guest service and make the effort to get there? Now my children are all grown up, I use working in a school as my excuse to enter into the children’s excitement of Christmas. Memories of these times are precious.

Relax! Break the rules for once.

Even if you don’t usually allow it, why not let the little ones snuggle into your bed with you on the big morning? Enjoy each other. My youngest says one of his favourite Christmas memories was waking up on Christmas morning knowing we’d be cosy and comfortable together… I can’t add to that!


By Jacqueline Rodda